WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U.S. Coast Guard began a series of transportation system port security exercises today in San Francisco. The Port Security Training Exercises Program (PortSTEP) is focused on building links within the Area Maritime Security (AMS) Committee. The committee assists the captain of the port in writing, reviewing and updating an AMS Plan in addition to supporting other transportation entities that depend upon the port being secure.
The exercise will involve the entire port community, including both public governmental agencies and private industry. The partnership is intended to improve connectivity of various surface transportation modes and enhance current Area Maritime Security Plans. Scenarios range from how officials react to discovering a suspect cargo container to an explosion at a seaport rail yard. Communication and coordination abilities of the government and maritime industry will be tested at each of the 40 seaports scheduled to participate over the next three years.
"PortSTEP is designed to benefit maritime and surface transportation security communities throughout the U.S. via a suite of training exercises, evaluations and accompanying information technology products," said Noreen Brown, TSA's PortSTEP Project Officer. "This information will prove invaluable as we work to balance freedom of commerce and protection of our nation's transportation system."
"Our nation's seaports are vital to the economic health of this country," said Capt. Frank Sturm, Chief of the Coast Guard's Office of Port, Vessel, and Facility Security. "Through these exercises and other programs, we will be continually testing and evaluating how ready we are to deal with an actual threat to our ports."
PortSTEP will foster and support institutional relationships within the port environment including the surface transportation and maritime industry, transportation and port security managers, emergency managers, law enforcement, medical professionals, private security personnel, and all others involved in preparing for and responding to a Transportation Security Incident (TSI). In addition, PortSTEP will be carried out with the participation of various federal, state and local government agencies.
TSA has awarded contracts to four companies to initiate the program: Community Research Associates of Alexandria, Va.; Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. of McLean, Va.; UNITECH of Centreville, Va.; and Applied Science Associates of Narragansett, R.I. The contractors developed TSI-related scenarios including simulation software and databases to monitor and evaluate the exercises.
In addition to TSA and the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Highway Administration and the Maritime Administration are among participants in the PortSTEP exercise.